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Scholarship launch at Queen’s in memory of innovative pioneer

6th February 2024

The spirit of innovation epitomised by Walter Wilson will be harnessed by the next generation of engineers at Queen’s University thanks to a new scholarship funded by Ulster Carpets.

Thanks to the new initiative, each year the Ulster Carpets Walter Wilson Scholarship will support two students who face social or economic barriers to higher education to join the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. Engineering students Ellen-Jane Boyd and Jack Smyth will be the first recipients of the £7,500 annual bursary which will support them during their education.

The late Walter Wilson (centre) pictured at the 75th anniversary celebrations with the then Chairman Edward Wilson (left) and current Managing Director, Nick Coburn. The new scholarship at Queen’s University will honour his spirit of innovation.

The eldest son of company founder George Walter Wilson, Walter became Managing Director of Ulster Carpets in 1954 aged just 24 and he remained involved in the business in various capacities until his death in 2014.

Known for his drive for innovation, understanding of design and having an eye for future trends, Walter’s passion for engineering remains instilled in the successful company that is still owned and run by the Wilson family.

John Wilson, Chairman of Ulster Carpets and Walter’s nephew, said the scholarship is a fitting tribute to Walter’s impact on the company.

“Walter was a real pioneer, and it was his vision that transformed Ulster Carpets from a minnow within the competitive UK carpet industry into what we are today – one of the largest and most successful producers of woven carpet in the world.

“In order to retain our position as a world-leader, we need people with Walter’s innovative spirit and passion for engineering. We are delighted to work with such an acclaimed university as Queen’s to provide more opportunities for students to unlock their potential and make a real difference.”

As part of the scholarship, the students will have the opportunity to spend up to two weeks of paid work experience at Ulster Carpets’ global headquarters in Portadown.

Assistant Director of Philanthropy at Queen’s, Helen Carrick, said: “The support of companies such as Ulster Carpets for young people who have had to overcome social or financial barriers to access higher education is hugely important. This kind of backing can change lives and we are extremely grateful for the generous and meaningful investment in our young people.”

Speaking about the scholarships, Professor Juliana Early, Head of the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Aerospace and Manufacturing said: “We are delighted to be working with Ulster Carpets on the launch of the Walter Wilson Scholarship. This scholarship will not only provide financial support for our future engineering talent, but will also provide valuable hands on experience in a vibrant company and the opportunity to work alongside industry experts fostering innovative thinking and entrepreneurship.”

Mary Montgomery, one of Walter Wilson’s daughters (centre), with the first recipients of the Ulster Carpets Walter Wilson Scholarship – Jack Smyth (second left) and Ellen-Jayne Boyd (second right). Also included are John Wilson, Chairman of Ulster Carpets (left), and Paul Hermon, Senior Lecturer (Education), at Queen’s University.